Obesity Epidemic Owes to Sugar/Carbs—Not Inactivity
While the growing trend towards a more sedentary lifestyle is of concern to public health experts, new research suggests that when it comes to the alarming rise in obesity in this and other developed countries, excess sugar and consumption of other simple carbohydrates are really to blame—not inactivity. That’s according to new research published in the influential publication, the British Medical Journal (BMJ). Exercise away, say experts, but know that you can’t outrun a poor diet featuring too many simple carbs.
At the same time, other researchers are reporting that a diet that’s low in saturated fat—once thought to help lower cholesterol levels and decrease the risk of heart disease—is not any better for the heart than a higher-fat diet. The bottom line? Saturated fat is not the enemy of heart health as we’ve been told for decades. Combining these and other findings underscores a startling new reality: Sugar is the real culprit when it comes to the obesity and heart disease epidemics. It’s been hiding under our noses—often quite literally—for decades.
Remember when eggs were vilified because they contain cholesterol? Forget the prohibition against eggs. They’re also off the hook. Remember when fast food companies stopped cooking their fries in animal fat (a rich source of saturated fat), in the belief that other types of cooking oil would be healthier? Probably not true. The simple carbs contained in the fried potatoes were probably always more of a health challenge than any oil they’d been cooked in. It’s simple and refined carbs that impact blood sugar levels. It’s simple, refined carbs in excess that are readily converted to triglycerides—a form of blood lipid—and stored as fat in the body.
When it comes to food, though, it was never about the fat. In fact, some experts have been cautious about the rise in popularity of coconut oil. This natural form of cooking oil, extracted from coconuts, is high in saturated fat. This fact made health experts uneasy for decades. Yet coconut oil appears to be quite healthful. In fact, coconut oil contains medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs); a unique type of fat that appears to be good for us. Meanwhile, saturated fat, as we now know, was never a source of problems for the cardiovascular system.
J. J. DiNicolantonio. The cardiometabolic consequences of replacing saturated fats with carbohydrates or -6 polyunsaturated fats: Do the dietary guidelines have it wrong? Open Heart, 2014; 1 (1): e000032 DOI: 10.1136/openhrt-2013-000032